By the end of this year Tesco Bank, headed up by former HBOS superstar Benny Higgins, plans to be selling mortgages to the supermarket faithful – although trying to flog a product with a 25-year shelf life and several pages of small print might prove a tad tricky for the quick-sell retailer.
But Higgins is undaunted by the challenge and says he will be reducing the risks implicit in the mortgage business by using retail deposits to fund the bulk of his organisation’s lending activity, adding that Tesco wants to be “a 21st century version of the old building society model”.
This leaves sceptics wondering if he has the Dunfermline, Cheshire or Chelsea models in mind. Or looking at more successful mutuals, perhaps Nationwide or the Yorkshire might provide suitable models.
Alternatively, Higgins might want to emulate the Ecology Building Society with its squeaky clean ethical principles, although he might fight shy of the ceiling put on that society’s chief executive’s salary – five times the basic salary offered by the organisation.
This could be a bit of an uphill struggle for Higgins, even with staff discounts and special offers on caviar and champagne.